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This is the last image the planet-hunting Kepler telescope ever took

February 8, 2019

The photo was taken on September 25, 2018, not long before the space telescope turned off forever.

What’s it showing? The image displays the space around the constellation Aquarius in the sky. There are a few squares missing in the last image because some parts of Kelper’s camera had failed near the end of its life. The satellite was retired on October 30, 2018, to orbit around the sun forever.

Quite a view: The telescope’s final field of view overlapped a bit with that of its exoplanet-hunting successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will allow for a comparison of the data from the two devices.

Some history: Kepler was NASA’s first planet-hunting mission. The telescope is responsible for the discovery of more than 2,600 exoplanets in our galaxy. Its data, which will be analyzed for years to come, indicates there are probably billions more. It also revealed the diversity of planets in our galactic neighborhood. The most common size of planet discovered so far—between the sizes of Neptune and Earth—doesn’t exist in our solar system.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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